Linguistic Identity

Submitted By:
Mario Williams, The Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, CT

Reclaiming Ruralisms by Samantha Nousak and Sarah D.C. Harvey
Inside Higher Ed, April 7, 2023

As many schools aim to build diverse communities, our educational spaces will need to be more inclusive of multilingual persons. Language is a powerful medium of self-expression, and requiring that individuals forgo the use of their home languages and dialects in schools can alienate underrepresented students and teachers and contribute to perpetuation of negative stereotypes. Nousak and Harvey reflect on their journeys as rural Midwesterners in academia and their experiences of codeswitching in response to social pressures to speak Standardized American English. In service of not being unfairly judged, the authors recall their efforts to dampen aspects of their linguistic identities in favor of using Standardized American English, which is often deemed to be more socially acceptable. They opine that this acceptance of Standardized American English as the language of schools fosters an oppressive environment for minority group members where the message that individuals from those backgrounds do not belong is reinforced. While the authors grapple primarily with linguistic inclusivity from the perspective of white rural educators, their musings invite us to broadly examine the policies we implement in our schools to help all individuals feel proud of their linguistic heritages and to open a more contentious conversation about how we define academic language.

Teaching Practice
Student Wellness & Safety